The threat of splinternet (earlier referred to as balkanization of internet) has been envisaged and discussed for 20 years already. Today many anticipate turning the global internet into the network splintered into a collection of fragmented networks controlled by governments or corporations.
Political Science News “Does Splinternet mean the end of the Internet?” 6/04/2022 described two ways of splintering internet:
- A technically incompatible protocol used by a critical mass of the world’s population. This form of splintering would not be disastrous as technologists would probably find a way to bridge the two protocols
- Technically compatible protocols but different governing bodies managing those services. It may prove challenging.
This is how ISOC describes our possible future:
- the addresses you normally use on the open Internet take you to completely different places
- sites can be blocked entirely.
- you can’t trust the names and addresses to take you to where they’re supposed to
- free flow of information becomes restricted and suppressed
France’s digital affairs envoy Henri Verdier, in his March interview to Bloomberg News stated that the combination of Moscow’s increasing online censorship attempts, combined with Ukraine’s repeated calls for Russia to be taken offline, could potentially offer the trigger for the fragmentation of the internet.
Much has been published about Russia’s internet regulator Roskomnadzor blocking access to internet resources and restrictions on western platforms are implemented through a “sovereign internet law” enacted in 2019.
Less is said about the same tendencies taking place in Belarus. There, the blocking of almost all Belarusian independent media, the recognition of telegram channels as extremist ones and, on this basis, the reason their blocking has become the daily routine for the Ministry of Information of the Republic of Belarus. Every day it updates a huge document titled Republican List of Extremist Materials 
Internet users in Belarus have a long practice of using VPN and other tools of circumvention. This was especially significant in August 2020, when the connectivity of the Belarusian Internet was disrupted. At that time Belarus overtook Iran (population is several times larger) in terms of daily use of psiphon. However, on a daily basis, users generally are too lazy to use VPNs, which leads to a further decrease in the audience of Belarusian independent media.
Last week Belarusian Ministry of information issued an order to block four Ukranian online media «РБК Украина», inforesist.org, «Гордон» и «Обозреватель» accusing them of extremism.
In the last couple of months, Belarusian media with state ownership and websites of governmental institutions s have become inaccessible to users who are physically outside the Republic of Belarus. One of the explanations is that these resources are subjected to constant external (from outside Belarus) hacker attacks.
After the outbreak of the war in Ukraine, Roskomnadzor has been sending to Belarusian sites requests to remove information that did not suit the Russian propaganda or threatening to block it on the territory of the Russian Federation. This is how the rationale of Roskomnadzor sent to the Belarusian environmental site Greenbelarus looks like
According to Belarusian media The-village.me (blocked by the decision of the Ministry of Information) two Belarusian websites were blocked by the request of Roskomnadzor:
- BrestNote.by (Brest news site: since April 3, but after the removal of material about the war, the site was unblocked)
- By.jooble.org (job search service. The Belarusian page of the site says “Belarus is a hostage to the criminal policies of Vladimir Putin and Alexander Lukashenko”).
The following Belarusian sites are blocked both in Belarus and in Russia
- Zerkalo.io (from March 8, although the decision was made on February 24)
- Nasha Niva (since March 13, the decision was made on February 24)
- Euroradio.fm (since March 16, decided on February 24)
- Belsat (since April 4, the decision was made on March 30)
- “Media Polesie” (since April 6, the decision was made on March 25)
The Belarusian Association of Journalists (BAJ) announced the blocking of two more Belarusian independent media by Roskomnadzor: https://reform.news/ (blocked for users in Belarus in 2021) and https://gazetaby.com/ “What exactly Prosecutor General’s Office of the Russian Federation did not like the, we do not know. The editors of Reform.by did not receive any notifications”, says BAJ.
This is what you see trying to access ttps://gazetaby.com/ in Belarus
Are these all moves just another wave of authoritarian censorship or a slide to an isolated Russian-Belarusian fragment of the global network?
«Can splinternet become a reality? People have started wondering now!!» we ask together with Political science news.